New England Men’s 55’s Team ThreePeats with Dramatic Come-From-Behind Victory!

New England Does it Again, but this time with Doubles and a Frosty!

 

By Paul Shaw and Laury Hammel

 

On July 9, 2011 the New England Men’s 55’s team won it’s third consecutive Atlantic Coast Cup in a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the mighty Mid-Atlantic team.   Played at the beautiful Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria, Virginia, it was the most thrilling finals in recent memory.  It’s now perfectly clear--when it comes to the Atlantic Coast Men’s 55’s competition between the Eastern, Mid-Atlantic, Middle States, and New England sections--New England rules!!  Three in a row qualifies as a legitimate dynasty!  Last year's victory was at Hopmeadow Country Club in Simsbury, Connecticut and the year before the New Englanders were victorious at Dupont Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware.

 

A little background….This spring when Captain Paul Shaw began planning New England’s defense of the Atlantic Coast Men’s 55’s Cup, he was determined to field the toughest team possible so he began recruiting early.  Losing one of last year’s stars, Wade Frame, to a family vacation was a big loss.  But no need to worry, New England senior tennis is deep and Captain Paul brought together a strong and balanced team committed to doing what was necessary to bring home the gold.  The following all-stars made up the 2011 New England Men’s 55’s Atlantic Coast team who we’ll call the New England Boys of Summer. 

 

Captain Paul Shaw—Norwell, MA

Howie Ames, Beverly, MA

Jon Bates—Stamford, CT

Kimm Fisher—Milford, CT

Bill Frost—Beverly, MA

Laury Hammel, Cambridge, MA

Phil Kadesch, North Easton, MA

Mike Kliebhan, Holliston, MA

Richard Makepeace, Naugatuck, CT

Al Turner Milford, CT

 

The Boys of Summer began arriving early Friday morning to ensure proper preparation and a solid practice at the tournament site (which featured perfectly groomed har-tru courts in a delightful setting), at Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria, Virginia.  The team was able to get in a strong workout before a cloudburst ended play the day before the battles would begin.  Later that evening the New England boys shared dinner in the Old Towne of Alexandria and it was here that the pivotal strategy was plotted.  Early reconnaissance of the competition indicated that the stiffest competition would come from the host team—Mid-Atlantic.  This powerhouse squad featured a singles lineup the kind of which has rarely been seen.  Consider the following:

 

Dan Waldman--#1 ranked 55’s player in the world

Chris Reynard-- #5 ranked 55’s player in the nation

Howie Hauptman—highly ranked Mid-Atlantic senior player

Bill Moldoch-- #12 ranked 55’s player in the nation

 

Captain Shaw correctly explained that for New England to have any chance to win three in a row, they needed to win all three doubles and then pray for one singles victory.  New England #1 Men’s 55 singles player, PhiI Kadesch, stepped up and volunteered to partner with New England doubles legend, Jon Bates giving New England a strong #1 team.  Holding down the #2 spot would be Kimm Fisher and Richard Makepeace.  This formidable team had recently placed second in the New England Hardcourt Men’s 55’s Slam in Yale, losing to Frame and Kadesch in a tight match.  Holding down the #3 spot was a strong team of Al Turner and Howie Ames   The doubles was looking tough!

 

After further discussion, Captain Shaw selected Michael Kleibhan, Paul Shaw, Laury Hammel, and Bill Frost to play singles, knowing well that for any hope of three-peating the New England team would need at least one win to come through with a victory should we make it to the finals.    A lot of pressure, but the Boys of Summer were up to it.

 

In the first round New England drew a depleted Eastern team, that in year’s gone by had fielded some of the toughest teams ever.  Captain Doug Burrow was doing some reverse trash talking, but the New England team wasn’t buying any of it.  They figured he might have a few tricks up his sleeve and they were on a mission.  On Saturday morning the Boys of Summer made a strong statement by winning the first round 7-0 without losing a set—everyone was playing well and feeling good!  New England was poised to do a trifecta! 

 

On the other half of the draw, the Mid-Atlantic team cruised through the Middle States team and the expected clash of the tennis titans was set for Sunday morning on the clay and in the sun!   

 

On Sunday morning, the New England team had a solid warm-up, and they were ready for a good old fashioned tennis rumble.   But within about an hour’s time, things were looking bleak for New England as the top three singles players Kliebhan, Shaw, and Hammel went down quickly to these Mid-Atlantic studs winning a total of five games combined.  Now all the Mid-Atlantic team needed to take home the gold was to win one of the remaining four matches.  To make matters worse, the #1 and #1 doubles teams both lost the first set.  At this point, only the most optimistic New Englanders held out any hope for the boys from the North to turn this competition around. 

 

But in a New England minute the tide started turning.  Turner and Ames dominated a solid Mid-Atlantic team in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 to get New England on the scoreboard.  Now the attention moved to the #4 singles match where Bill Frost (Frosty) had won the first set and was fighting hard to pull off an upset and keep NE in the running for the gold.  Frosty’s opponent was the highly-touted Bill Moldoch who had beaten Kadesch two years ago in this same competition.  The battle was much closer than the score and the match turned on a few hard-fought points, with Frosty ultimately prevailing by out-grinding this tenacious grinder 6-2, 6-2.  These two wins raised the hopes of NE and brought the score to to a close 2-3, but New England still needed a minor miracle to manufacture a comeback win in both of the remaining doubles matches. 

 

Hungry for a cool trifecta, the Boys gathered on the balcony to cheer their brothers on in the final two matches.  Captain Shaw and his team were more than nervous when New England’s best team of Bates and Kadesch had lost the first set and now were down a service break at 4-3 in the second set.  But that is exactly when these two veteran competitors turned it up a notch and rallied with some flawless play.  They went on a tear winning the next three games and the second set, and then going up two breaks in the third set before finally closing out the match 6-4 in the third set. 

 

Now the Atlantic Coast finals was knotted at 3-3 with the whole event now in the hands of the #2 team--Makepeace and Fisher.  After losing the first set, this talented doubles team stormed back to win the second set with some spirited doubles play.  However, neither team could consolidate a service break meaning that it was all going to be decided by a Tie-Break.  Blood pressures rose when New England went down an early mini-break at 1-3, but quicker than you can say `Atlantic Coast Cup’,  New England put on a display of error-less play coupled with several extraordinary shots and won the next six points, the TieBreak (7-3), and the match--New England got the ThreePeat and brought home the gold!  

 

After a fun and boisterous celebration, the Boys of New England shared a few cold ones reveling in their good fortune; celebrating their clever strategic positioning, marveling at their clutch play; and loving the fine teamwork and good camaraderie.  Every team member contributed to the ThreePeat by winning at least one match and it felt good knowing they all fought their hardest and gave it their all.  As they began their trips back to their New England homes the Boys of Summer felt immense satisfaction knowing they brought with them the Atlantic Coast Cup a third time I a row!  Not one to rest on his impressive laurels, Captain Shaw is already making plans for a Grand Slam in 2012 on Long Island--four in a row! 

 

 

The NE 55 Atlantic Coast Cup Team